Herman Eloff, News24 Lifestyle and Entertainment Editor, takes a closer look at the latest announcement from Buckingham Palace and what it shows about the British monarchy.
Cape Town – What used to be a rarity has now become an almost weekly occurrence – the royal family releasing late-night statements over weekends.
Everything about the British monarchy is done with a boatload of behind-the-scenes discussions and calculated precision that rarely ever portrays the queen as weak or playing catch-up.
But that all changed in 2020 when Harry and Meghan released a statement early in January announcing that they would step down as senior members of the royal family.
Their statement painted a portrait of a modern royal eutopia in which they would be able to be both working members of the royal family when in the United Kingdom and live a semi-normal life when staying in North America. It was, according to them at least, the dawning of a new age for the monarchy that mostly bows its head to tradition.
(SUSSEX SPLIT: Queen Elizabeth II, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex watch a flypast to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force from the balcony of Buckingham Palace on 10 July 2018. Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Then arrived an unexpected statement from Buckingham Palace that stated that Harry and Meghan’s plans are just that – plans. Queen Elizabeth II wanted to make it clear that “things are complicated” and she’s very much still in control. The short and blunt statement made it look like Buckingham was caught off-guard – which they later tried to rectify with another statement making it clear that the queen supports Harry and Meghan’s decision and that discussions were still on-going.
Then on Saturday night, 18 January, came the statement from Buckingham Palace that would reveal that the queen would not allow the dream of “half royal” to become a thing for senior members of the family.
She drew a line in the sand.
You’re either a working member of the royal family or you step back completely – there’s no in-between. The statement announced that Harry and Meghan would lose their royal funds, would have to give up their HRH titles, and that Harry would be stripped of his military titles including being Captain General of the Royal Marines.
Prince Charles will continue to support Harry and Meghan from his own personal funds and the Sussex couple will undoubtedly be able to secure their own income. The HRH titles being removed is hardly something Harry and Meghan would lose sleep over. But what stung the most was that Harry would have to step back from his role in the military – something he’s extremely passionate about and which is a large part of his formative years as a young man.
Queen Elizabeth, at age 93, has made it clear that she’s still very much in control of the monarchy. Prince Harry has made it clear that if he has to choose between being a royal and his family – he’d give up everything for his wife and his son.
Where the queen displayed power, Harry showed heart.